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Shock revelation derails finance boss sentencing

Shock revelation derails finance boss sentencing

Thursday 08 November 2018

Shock revelation derails finance boss sentencing


A last-minute revelation that could mean a substantially shorter period behind bars has derailed the sentencing of an ex-finance boss, who lost £2.8million of his clients’ money in a fraudulent fund.

Ex-Lumiere CEO Christopher Paul Byrne (50) was due to be sentenced in the Royal Court today for misleading his elderly, vulnerable, and financially inexperienced clients to invest large percentages of their wealth in a high-risk and ultimately fraudulent fund.

But the Royal Court case had to be adjourned this afternoon pending further investigation after Mr Byrne's lawyer, Advocate Olaf Blakeley, revealed that the former financier had been helping Guernsey Police with their investigation of Providence Wealth - a company later exposed as a Ponzi scheme.

He argued that this meant his client could be eligible for a substantially reduced sentence, as opposed to the nine years that the prosecution had moved for.

Advocate Blakeley produced an email from a Guernsey Police officer confirming that Mr Byrne had assisted in their investigation saying that he had been “very forthcoming” and “some of the information has already proved useful."

However, the Crown Advocate, who made his own enquiries with the Guernsey Police, said he was told that the information was not especially helpful.

thomas_vs_blakeley_byrne_case.jpg

Pictured: The Crown Advocate (right) and the Defence Advocate (left) disagree as to the value of the information the former financier provided to Guernsey Police was.

The Court heard that anyone who has assisted in investigations that could lead to the prosecution of other individuals could enjoy the benefit of receiving a reduced sentence in their own case due to their cooperation. 

A Court filled with many of the investors whom Mr Byrne has been convicted of misleading was told that the proceedings would have to be adjourned to investigate this matter further.

Mr Byrne was convicted of 16 counts of financial misconduct after a lengthy four-and-a-half-week trial which heard testimony from many of his former clients including  an elderly French couple, a pensioner and a retired teacher.

Royal Court Commissioner Sir John Saunders, presiding, apologised to the Court and specifically those who had lost their money as a result of Mr Byrne's advice. He said that it was “an important policy of sentencing that if the defendant gave assistance… that leads to the arrest and prosecution if other individuals” that he is eligible for a “discount” on his sentence. He added that “this policy is driven by the desire to bring as many criminals to justice as possible.”

Video: Christopher Paul Byrne arriving at the Royal Court for sentencing, before proceedings were derailed.

The Commissioner continued that passing sentence without conducting a full investigation would be “irresponsible” and “is capable of leading to injustice.” 

Prior to this revelation, Crown Advocate Thomas had recommended a custodial sentence of nine years for his misconduct. During his summing up, he emphasised the vulnerability of Byrne's former clients and the closeness of their relationship, which he argued Byrne exploited to get them to part with their money.

In contrast, Advocate Blakeley urged the Jurats to consider that Mr Byrne “always believed his clients would actually benefit” from their investments in the fund as well as emphasising his good character.

The case has been adjourned subject to this further investigation, but it isn’t clear when Mr Byrne will be back in Court for sentencing.

Guernsey Economic Crime Detective Inspector Julie Palmer said: “The Guernsey investigation is complex and is still very much ongoing. We have a team of officers dedicated to this investigation, who continue to work in partnership with the relevant experts and stakeholders both locally and internationally.Bailiwick Law Enforcement remain fully committed to this investigation.”

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